Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

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Capturing war-torn Avdiivka the ‘primary focus’ of Russian operations, UK notes

 A snowy field with traces of artillery and recently destroyed Russian heavy equipment on the outskirts of the city on January 25, 2023 in Avdiivka, Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Russia have recently claimed gains in the Avdiivka, where Russia is continuing a long-running campaign to capture the city, located in the Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk Region. 

Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The war-ravaged town of Avdiivka in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, remains a primary focus of Russian operations, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an in intelligence update Thursday.

“Russia continues attacks in the south-eastern city limits, with urban street-to-street combat taking place. Over the past two weeks, Russian forces have likely rotated in additional forces to the Avdiivka sector, increasing the pressure on Ukrainian positions around the city,” the ministry said on X.

Ukraine continues to conduct counterattacks to ensure the main supply route remains in use, the U.K. noted.

“Over the past four weeks, approximately 600 guided munitions have been launched against Ukrainian positions in Avdiivka from tactical aircraft,” the U.K. noted.

“Russian sorties increased guided aerial munitions strikes from 30 to 50 per day on 5 February 2024, an increase of 66% over the last two weeks.”

The ministry noted that Russian fighters are being forced to launch munitions at range, degrading their accuracy due to the continued threat of Ukrainian air defense.

“Russia is almost certain to continue offensive pressure in this area over the next several weeks, heavily leveraging tactical air power to support its effort.”

— Holly Ellyatt

War critic Nadezhdin barred from running in election

Russia’s electoral authorities have barred war critic Boris Nadezhdin from running in the presidential election next month, claiming that he had submitted too many “defective” signatures in support of his election bid.

Boris Nadezhdin, Civic Initiative party’s candidate for Russia’s 2024 presidential election, bringing 105,000 signatures to the polling station in Moscow, Russia on January 31, 2024. 

Boris Nadezhdin Press Service/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Politicians who wish to run in Russian elections must submit at least 100,000 signatures (or more, in the case of independent candidates) in support of their candidacy.

Nadezhdin, a former Russian lawmaker and well-known political pundit in Russia, submitted 105,000 signatures last week to the Central Election Commission (CEC), which oversees elections in Russia.

The CEC said Thursday that Nadezhdin was not eligible to run because of the high percentage of defects in the voter signatures he collected in his support, Russian news agency Tass said. The CEC said more than 15% of the signatures were defective.

Nadezhdin’s campaign group had said earlier this week that they would appeal the decision but CEC Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova said “the decision has been made,” Russian state news agency Tass reported.

The decision will come as no surprise to close watchers of Russian politics and Kremlin critics. Political analysts said it was extremely unlikely that an anti-war candidate, who has garnered a following among a metropolitan section of Russian voters, would be allowed to run in the election, with the Kremlin likely fearing a potential swell of support for Nadezhdin that it would have to suppress, as it has done with other political opponents.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says it downed 11 out of 17 Russia-launched drones

Ukrainian air defense and mobile drone hunter groups shot down 11 out of 17 Russia-launched drones over four regions of the country, the air force said on Thursday.

Emergency services stand near the site of a missile attack in a residential area of the city in Kyiv. Russia launched a missile strike on Kyiv, Ukraine, according to the statement from local authorities, more than 20 rockets were shot down. 

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

It said in a statement the Iranian-made Shahed drones were downed over the Odesa and Mykolayiv regions in the south, the Dnipropetrovsk region in the southeast, and the central Vinnytsia region.

Regional officials said the drone attack damaged more than 20 residential houses and commercial buildings in the city of Mykolayiv and hit civilian infrastructure facilities in Odesa on the Black Sea in the south. There were no casualties reported.

Details of damage in other regions were not immediately clear.

— Reuters

Ukraine conspicuously silent on Tucker Carlson interview request

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Ukraine’s leadership has remained conspicuously silent on U.S. journalist Tucker Carlson’s interview request following the journalist’s repeated criticism of Kyiv.

Carlson interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week. The former Fox News host has expressed pro-Kremlin views while disparaging U.S. support for Ukraine, criticizing Western media interviews with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the president himself, calling him “sweaty and rat-like” and a “persecutor of Christians.”

Carlson said he’d also requested an interview with Ukraine’s president, although there has been no public response from Kyiv. Zelenskyy has not commented on the Putin interview either.

Deputy Prime Minister Hanna Maliar noted on Telegram that “the only interview that is safe in this situation is an interrogation in The Hague,” alluding to the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Putin, accusing him of the war crime of the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine. Russia said the ICC’s actions were “outrageous” and that it did not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar during a media briefing of the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine in Kyiv on April 13, 2023.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Russian state media tracked Tucker Carlson’s every move while he was in Moscow, and Maliar noted that “the Russian information environment is happy that a famous American journalist will interview Putin.”

“There are such democratic practices that can lead to the destruction of the bearers of democratic values,” Maliar said.

“As soon as they start a discussion about why Putin is doing this; where something human is hidden in him, which will smile and make a witty joke; that freedom of speech must be absolute; that two sides must be listened to the countdown to their influence in the world will begin. They will imperceptibly hand it over to Putin,” she said.

“Putin’s interview to anyone outside the Russian Federation is a recognition of his status and the opening of Pandora’s box. A chain reaction follows,” Maliar added.

— Holly Ellyatt

Tucker Carlson reportedly leaves Russia, faces criticism for interview

Tucker Carlson speaks at the Turning Point Action conference on July 15, 2023 in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

The former Fox News host was spotted in Moscow earlier this week, fueling speculation that he was in Russia’s capital to interview Putin.

Carlson — who has expressed support for Russia — and the Kremlin confirmed that he had met and interviewed Putin Tuesday. The interview will be broadcast later Thursday on X and Carlson’s own website at 18:00 ET.

Announcing the interview on X, Carlson lambasted Western media outlets for their coverage of the war in Ukraine, claiming that no one had “bothered” to interview the Russian president, and that Western governments would try to censor his interview, without producing evidence to back up his claims.

Both Western and Russian journalists who have fled the country in order to be able to report on the war, without risking “disinformation” charges and possible imprisonment, hit back at Carlson’s comments, saying interview requests were repeatedly refused by the Kremlin and that many journalists had been expelled from Russia or imprisoned for their work and the “freedom of speech” Carlson claims to champion.

Holly Ellyatt

IAEA chief says nuclear power plant in Ukraine is ‘relatively stable’

Following a visit to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on Wednesday, Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it was “relatively stable.”

“There have been less, episodes of direct attacks or shelling around it, which is a positive development, although we take it with enormous caution,” he said. Grossi added that topics including water supply, which serves to cool the plant, and staffing by authorized personnel were also discussed on Wednesday.

The plant is located in Southern Ukraine and has been highly contested throughout the war, with both Russia and Ukraine accusing one another of endangering its safety.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russian foreign ministry says air defense systems destroy several Ukrainian rockets

Russia’s air defense systems on Wednesday destroyed seven rockets launched by Ukraine over the Belgorod region, the Russian foreign ministry said in a post on Telegram, according to a translation.

Two people were wounded and were being treated for their injuries, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, said on Telegram, according to a translation. Various private houses and cars, as well as businesses, were damaged, he added.

In a separate Telegram post later in the day, the Russian foreign ministry said a further two Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles had been destroyed over the same Russian region.

CNBC was unable to independently verify the reports.

— Sophie Kiderlin

4 dead, 40 injured in Russian attack on Kyiv

People react at the site of a missile attack in a residential area of the city on February 07, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russia launched a massive missile attack on the capital on Wednesday morning. According to the statement from local authorities, more than 20 rockets were shot down. 

Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Four people have died and a further 40 were injured in Russian missile attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv earlier Wednesday, Kyiv’s city military administration said on Telegram.

Emergency services continue to work in the Holosiiv district of the capital, where several floors of an 18-story residential building were damaged as a result of a Russian missile attack, Kyiv’s Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Telegram. The four civilians who died in today’s attack were residents of the building, he said.

A fire caused by the falling fragments of a Russian missile rages in a block of flats in the Holosiivskyi district after the Russian missile attack on Wednesday morning, Kyiv. 

Serhii Loparev | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Ukrainian air defense forces said earlier that 20 Russian missiles had been destroyed over Kyiv and on their approach to the city early Wednesday morning.

Describing the latest attack as “the third missile attack on Kyiv in 2024,” the city’s military administration said on Telegram that Russia had used a variety of cruise missiles to target the capital.

A view of a burning building as a result of a Russian missile attack as the teams continue to intervene on the region in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 07, 2024. Due to the attack, 4 people were killed, 19 people were injured and 60 people were evacuated from the building. 

Danylo Antoniuk | Anadolu | Getty Images

“The enemy used Kh-101/Kh-555/Kh-55 cruise missiles launched from Tu-95MS strategic bombers from the territory of the Russian Federation. The air raid alert in the capital lasted almost 3 hours. The missiles entered the capital in several waves from different directions,” Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv city military administration, noted.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin confirms Tucker Carlson interview took place Tuesday

The Kremlin confirmed Wednesday that U.S. journalist Tucker Carlson conducted an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Yes, I can confirm this,” the Kremlin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. “As soon as it [the interview] is prepared, it will be released,” he told reporters, according to TASS news agency.

“He has a position that differs from the others. It is in no way pro-Russian, it is not pro-Ukrainian, it is rather pro-American,” Peskov added.

“But at least it is contrastingly different from the position of traditional Anglo-Saxon media,” he added.

In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state owned agency Sputnik, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a meeting of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Chad’s Transitional President Brice Mahamat Idriss Deby (both not pictured) at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 24, 2024.

Mikhail Metzel | AFP | Getty Images

The comments echo those made by Carlson in Moscow on Tuesday. Announcing his interview with Putin, Carlson said “we are not here because we love Vladimir Putin. We are here because we love the United States.”

Carlson lambasted Western media as he laid out his reasons for interviewing Putin, saying they “lie” to their readers and views and do so “mostly by omission.” Carlson also said he was defending freedom of speech. He also claimed that no one had “bothered” to interview the Russian president.

A man makes a selfie photo in front of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya tower and St. Basil’s cathedral in downtown Moscow on September 11, 2023. Russia’s Elections Commission said that the pro-Kremlin United Russia part had won local elections in four regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, in a vote dismissed by Kyiv. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

Peskov said Wednesday that “Mister Carlson is wrong” about the Kremlin not receiving interview requests from foreign media but said he couldn’t be expected to know that.

The Kremlin receives “lot of requests for interviews with the president,” Peskov said, “but, basically, when it comes to the countries of the collective West, we are talking about large online media, traditional television channels, large newspapers, which cannot boast of attempts to at least look impartial in terms of coverage. These are all media that take an exclusively one-sided position,” he said.

“Of course, there is no desire to communicate with such media, and there is hardly any point in this, it is unlikely that there can be any benefit from this,” he added.

Russia’s media landscape is tightly-controlled by the Kremlin and is consistently careful to orchestrate favorable coverage (and to omit any criticism) of Russia’s leadership. It’s also rare for Western media outlets to be granted an audience with Putin and many foreign journalists have been expelled from Russia.

Aside from the repression of media freedoms, freedom of speech is frequently under attack in Russia and censorship has only increased since the war started almost two years ago; expressions of anti-war sentiment can lead to arrest in Russia, with legislation making any perceived “disinformation” about Russia’s armed forces a criminal offence.

— Holly Ellyatt

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